How to Gently Get A Brooding Hen to Stop Setting

How to Gently Get A Brooding Hen to Stop Setting

Bantam Cochins are one of the best breeds of chickens for small urban backyards, mainly because they are generally quiet, curious, very friendly, easy to handle, kids like their small size and docile nature, they don’t fly like other bantams do, and they do well with confinement to a small coop or tractor.  Some people are reticent to keep them as part of their flock because they are also known for going broody often, just like Silkies.  Well, the part about the broodiness is very true.  However, after 5 years of keeping backyard chickens, I don’t feel broodiness, or the desire to hatch eggs and raise chicks, in a breed is a downside or a problem.  Typically the best natured breeds are also broody breeds, like Buff Orpington and Black Australorp.  When it comes time to add to our flock, a broody hen makes the job of integrating young baby chicks almost effortless, including day old chicks they didn’t hatch. Chicks raised by hand without a mother hen to look out for them, can’t be easily added to an established flock without blood shed or a lot of pecking, at least not until they are closer to the same size as the adult hens.  Broody hens also eliminate the need for an indoor brooder or heat lamp for chicks.  The baby chicks scurry in and out of the mother hen’s feathers, self regulating their need for warmth.

I have let the hens raise chicks in the past, but right now isn’t a good time for us to have chicks around.  Life is just too hectic, and when their are chicks around, I spend too much time holding and watching them, instead of getting my chores done.  Once school is out, and our family’s schedule slows down, and if one or more of the hens go broody, I’ll probably let them have some day old chicks.  In the meantime, on Tuesday, our newest pullet, the black Silkie, decided it was a good time for her.   She is our third broody chicken this year.

Although our hens don’t always go broody when it is convenient for us, “breaking” a hen of being broody or stopping the hormonal cycle isn’t that hard.   The sooner I notice it and intervene, the sooner the hen will go back to normal behavior and laying.  When I notice a hen or pullet has staked out the nest box all day, and especially when she is still in there when it is time to roost for the night, I usually have a pretty good idea that she has started going broody.  Broody hens often have a distinctive dinosaur like growl when disturbed on their nest.

I have tried different things over the years to break my broody hens, but the easiest and gentlest has been to but the hen in our extra hutch, a collapsible rabbit hutch with a wire bottom.   It is handy having a second moveable place to put chickens if it is ever needed, not just for broody chickens.  My hubby calls it the chicken “sweat box.”  I think of it more like a sweat lodge.  It is secure with 1/2 inch wire, a covered top, and latch on the side door.  It sits in the shade in a corner of the yard where all the goings on around the backyard can be seen.  The broody hens don’t seem to be too bothered about being in there since they are generally zombie like anyway while they are in the broody phase.  The few times I have added a non broody buddy, but both times the buddy just picked on the broody.

The hutch’s wire bottom allows for air flow on the under side of the chicken.  This airflow helps the hen cool down on her belly and keeps her from insulating her abdomen.  I don’t give her a nest in there, just food, water, and snacks like grape leaves or lettuce to peck at.  I prefer to stop broodiness this way because it doesn’t seem traumatic for the hen at all, kind of like a time out.  After about 3 to 7 days in the hutch, or if she lays an egg before that, the hen is usually no longer broody and I return her to hang out with the other ladies in the coop.  If she goes back to taking over a nest box, back to the hutch for a few more days she goes.  When I notice the first day that the hen is broody and intervene, it usually only takes her three days to snap out of it.  But if I accidentally let her go a few days, it takes a bit longer.  The longer she has been broody, the longer it takes for her to return to normal.

The black Silkie was on her third day in there when I snapped the photo.  She was still talking like a broody hen with a soft cooing bak-bak-bak-bak, so I knew she wasn’t quite ready to come out yet.  The next day, she seemed back to normal, so I returned her to the big coop.  It will likely be another 3 to 5 days, at least, before she goes back to laying.

Below is a short video of my two broodies from last year. Broody hens sound and act a little different than how hens normally do.  Despite not wanting to be bothered when broody, most of our Cochin hens are really nice and don’t peck or bite at us. The Silkie was the same way as these two ladies in the video.  They just cluck and puff up to tell us and other hens to leave them alone.

4 thoughts on “How to Gently Get A Brooding Hen to Stop Setting

  1. Should I put the broody pen close to where the other chickens are to prevent fighting when I put them together again or should I put her in a secluded area

  2. Great post! I have a hen who just hatched out chicks a few months ago and is broody again! We don’t want any more chicks so I’m trying to break her. Your method sounds like it works well and isn’t too harsh for the hen.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing that. We have Black Australorps that, as you mentioned, have a tendency to go broody. We happen to think that is great and after watching the mother with the baby chicks, I’m not sure I would ever want to use an incubator!! You are right that their schedules don’t always match ours though and some of the other methods of breaking broodiness seemed a little traumatic. Have you noticed that once one of your hens goes broody, another seems to follow?

I would love to know what you think about this.

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